Sunday, 23 June 2013

Stinkhorns and Councils

 My first stinkhorn! The smell is truly unbelievable.

 Juvenile house sparrow which flew into my lounge and then started squaring up to its own reflection.

 Gold Swift moth at Iscoyd Park. Males smell of pineapple, apparently! 

 Toad at Wem Moss.

 Small Copper, Wem Moss.

Two Edgeley Road voles. 

 A glimpse of a water vole at Greenfields Rise, so outside the Country Park.

 Sensitive strimming at White Lion Meadow car park by the council - a good margin of cover left for the voles.

 We've had some sightings at the car park, but this latrine would tell us there's vole presence anyway.

More Edgeley Road voles, to finish.

An appreciative shout out to councils, including north Shropshire, who manage riparian areas with regard to wildlife. There was a time when contractors would strim the vegetation too far down the bank, disturbing the voles and leaving them insufficient cover. They also used to use chemical sprays. But since they've been aware of water voles along the Staggsbrook, they've been more careful in their mowing and strimming. This blog says thank you to councils who listen.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Kate Humble and me

A moment away from voles: I was thrilled last week to interview Kate Humble about her new book Humble By Nature, which tells the story of how she and her husband became first smallholders, and then owners of an amazing farm which hosts educational and community courses. You can read about it on the farm's website here:

The event was sold out, Kate was brilliantly entertaining and frank, and everyone had a great time. Big thanks to Booka, Oswestry's fab independent bookshop, for organising the event.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Males and Females

 Droppings ALL OVER this pallet. Whoever lives here is making a statement.

Baby blackbird in our garden.

I've never handled a water vole so have no experience of sexing them - if they're anything like dormice and bank voles, then the method of telling males and females apart is to gauge the distance between the anus and genital opening, two tiny holes fairly close together, so potentially tricky. There's certainly no obvious way to tell a water vole's gender as it swims past or eats a stalk of grass.

However, if the animal is seen topping up a big latrine, it's likely to be female as males' latrines are smaller and there aren't as many. I've also read that males have a bit more of a ruff around their necks, though it's a subtle distinction. Anyway, on this latter premise I think the top three photos are a lady vole and the three below a chap. 

Friday, 7 June 2013

Mossfields and Black Park Road

 Edgeley Road vole

 Above: burrow, feeding and droppings at Mossfields.

 Latrine at Black Park Road

I went to check on the colony at Mossfields, which is the field at the back of Saddler's Walk, and was pleased to count more burrows than I've ever seen before on that site. Clearly a lot of water vole activity along the whole stretch.

Black Park Road was a more mixed story, as some vegetation had been removed and I think the lower stretch was too bare to be much use to voles; however the section between the metal bridge and Yocking's Gate looked like great habitat and, sure enough, there was a latrine on top of a stone right by the public footpath. I also spotted two kestrels while I was there, and sent the record off to

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

First baby of the year!

 Baby water vole

 Adults for comparison

A lot of vole traffic yesterday - at least two adults but I suspect more, plus this very appealing baby. The colour hasn't come out well in the photo, but young water voles are darker than the adults - plain chocolate-coloured - and much rounder, like a squashed pom pom. They leave the nest at just over three weeks, so I'm guessing this one is about a month-to-five weeks old.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Failing to find Adders

 Male Brimstone

 and a Green Hairstreak, both Whixall Moss

 Buzzard and 

song thrush, both at Wybunbury Moss 

 The landscape of Whixall Moss

 A robin and a common frog put in an appearance for the Garden Bioblitz 2013

Water vole at Edgeley Road (one of two)

Spent much of Sunday hunting for adders on Whixall Moss, but didn't have any luck. I did see about a dozen green hairstreak butterflies, though, and countless brimstones, plus I heard a cuckoo (my first of the year).

Spotted a water vole latrine at the Waylands end of Edward German Drive, so that sight's looking good.